Edit 09-12-2016: I found a lot of my old screenshots, so I've added some of them in to this
I went to a boarding school for my high school years. While at the beginning it didn't feel so great, I grew to realise that it did a hell of a lot of good for me. I went in as a very quiet, antisocial, shy kid who had very little experience with dealing with other people. I left as a person with confidence, and I had the social skills I had been missing for the past years of my life.
It took about 3 years for everything to fall into place. The social hierarchy had been sorted by then, with me somewhere at the bottom. I didn't mind, everyone left me alone. Most of the time, at least. Towards the end of 2010, I had decided that it was time to do something. I didn't need to be at the top of the social ladder, I just needed my space, and a way to communicate that I needed my space.
I started the year the way I had ended all the previous ones. Antisocial. Not completely. I still talked to people when they wanted to talk, I just didn't want to go out and talk to anyone. Most of this was my fault. I didn't exactly open up. I needed to change, but I just needed something to change with me.
That change happened. By now, the school was getting more relaxed with their rules on technology. Seniors, which included my year group, were now allowed cellphones, as long as they weren't used during school hours. We were also allowed to bring laptops, as long as they were used for work as well as recreation. I didn't have one myself, but there were a few who did.
I'm not sure how much got done in the way of work, but there certainly was a lot of gaming. The most commonly played game in the dorms was COD4: Modern Warfare. It had to be cracked to allow us all to play it offline (no internet, and phone data was expensive). Every week there was a LAN party, where everyone with a laptop would play games together. Some laptop owners were kind enough to let people have turns on theirs, so I ended up playing a couple of rounds in these. I made an effort to go to the LAN parties, as I realised that this was my opportunity to be more social, and to learn how to be better.
One week after the mid-term break, two of the laptops had this new game on it. It was only played by a two people, but a couple of their friends would sit on a bed and watch them play. One of these people was a friend, one of the few people I trusted with that title at the time. The other was someone I really didn't like. He was an attention seeking asshole most of the time, so I stayed away.
This new game, in case you hadn't figured already, was a rather blocky and pixelated game called Minecraft. I'm not sure what it was about it, but I almost instantly caught on. I would try to watch the people playing whenever they played it. Something just captivated me. I even started sitting next to the guy I didn't like as he played it.
This day is a bit of an important day for me. It's not actually that important, but I like to remember it. This is the day that I bought Minecraft for myself.
I didn't have a laptop, so the only time I got to play it was when I went home some weekends, and when I did, I would spend a lot of time playing Minecraft. When back at school, I would ask (almost every day) if I could use my friend's laptop to play for an hour or two. This wasn't always granted, of course. He needed to play things himself.
From now I'll mostly be talking about the times I played at home.
I didn't play much singleplayer at home. I had done some searching on the ad-riddles Minecraft server list sites, and found a small vanilla server. My first home in Minecraft was a dirt hut in the middle of a lake, about 50 blocks from spawn. I got griefed a lot, so I ended up carrying everything on me so that it didn't get stolen every time I logged off.
This continued for a couple of months, before I moved out. I waked about 4k away from spawn, and found a spot. I took out my most prized possession and started building my house.
You might think that my most prized possession was a Diamond Pick, or something similar. No, it wasn't. The best thing I had was a lava bucket. The spot I had found had an overhang, so I shaped the top of it a bit, then poured the bucket. The resulting flow covered the top of the peak, and made a curtain over the overhang. I then got out a bucket of water, and poured it on top, turning the entire thing into cobblestone.
That screenshot is from a bit later on, but I don't have a screenshot from earlier. Inside the dirt box on the left is about 30 or so wolves.
Now that I actually had a house, I started being a bit more active on the server. Not just in terms of hours online, but also in chat. Minecraft had given me an opportunity to start fresh, to be that confident person I wanted to be. And it worked. Over the rest of the year, I worked on it, then tried to take that confidence out into the real world.
And it worked. I had more opportunities to be social than the weekly LAN parties, but as mentioned at the top, I've left some more personal details out of this.
This is really just a short section, as not much different happened here.
The server I played on reset their world for Minecraft 1.8, with the new world generation. The admins teleported out over 10,000 blocks, and some of the members of the server joined them for a 'ravine survival', where we spent all out time underground in an area with many ravines. I wasn't included in the initial lot, because I wasn't online at the time. However, I asked to join them, and got whisked over to begin my life as a melon farmer.
That was really all I did in that world, I farmed melons. I thought they were a great food source (they're not, they're actually one of the worst), and they were easily farmed. I kept everyone fed during that time. Eventually the ravine survival slowed down, and everyone started building houses on the surface. I joined them in that, and helped join everyone up with rails.
I knew it was coming eventually. The server I played on closed down. I never really found another server like that one, so for a while I stopped playing Minecraft.
A couple of classmates decided they'd start their own server. They called it Zopus, because it meant somthing to them. They wanted to make one of them fancy Factions server, and make money from people buying 'donation' perks. They asked me to become an admin, so I accepted. It turns out their idea was a little short-lived when they realised that they'd have to put a lot of effort into getting their server popular and maintaining it. After a couple of weeks of messing around, they decided to just give the server to me. I kept it for a while, but then decided that it wasn't for me.
Another date, another April. This was the day I started my own server.
In the beginning, it was just for me to build stuff in. I used it to run some Bukkit plugins to help me with building.
There's really not too much interesting to say here, other than that this was the time I got better at building in Minecraft. I started doing curves in buildings, I started making better block choices. I even tried building some really big things.
I decided to go back to vanilla. I had had enough of my buildy world, I just wanted to get back to my roots.
I needed a name for my server, so I asked a friend. He thought for about 5 seconds before saying "Scoran: Survival, Creative, Or Rediculously Awesome Name".
I opened the server to the public, put it up in a couple of places, and started playing. A few people joined for a couple of minutes, then left. I wasn't worried about this, because I had done the same thing when looking for a server once the old one shut down.
Eventually, a few people stuck around. The server grew a little, but I didn't mind. We had a small, friendly community, and we enjoyed playing each day. Some people left, some more joined. The faces changed, the world changed, but the feeling was the same
I consider these the best times I had playing Minecraft. I've made friends who, hopefully, I will continue to talk with for life.
Over this time I learned more about how to lead people. I had to, since I was running a server. And just like before, I was able to transfer these skills into the real world. My small IRL friend group grew a little, and the number of people I didn't like dwindled. I came to realise that most of the problems I had socially were caused by me and I needed to fix them, so I did. I wouldn't have been able to do that on my own, but I had help from a game.
All good things must come to an end. The server was no exception. This wasn't a surprise to anyone, especially as the server hadn't seen proper activity for weeks.
I shut it down on the 4th anniversary of its creation. As quickly as it was created, it was shut down.
I'm not sure exactly what to say here. Shutting down the server felt like the end of an era. It wasn't just pressing
^C in a terminal, it was the end of 4 years of social growth, the end of 5 years playing the game that changed my life.
So where does that leave this story?
Well, this story doesn't have an end yet. I sometimes boot up Minecraft to play on a modded world with a friend. I sometimes boot it up to build something.
But even then, that's not everything. Without Minecraft, I don't think I would've taken to computers as much. Without Minecraft, I probably wouldn't be doing a degree in Comp Sci and loving the hell out of it. Without Minecraft, I wouldn't have said hi to the people I consider friends, even though I've never seen their faces.
Without Minecraft, I wouldn't be the person I am today.